Introducing Quartet Red

Quartet Red

KUDRYAVSTEV-COSTA-SANDOMIRSKY-TALALAY: Outta Town. Rush Hour Beauty. Chasing Tail. Where is the Station? Hotel Room Disasters. When Bars Are Closing. Dead Partners. Cactus. Farewell Cocktail / Quartet Red: Fred Costa, t-sax/voc; Gregory Sandomirsky, pno/voc; Vladimir Kudryavstev, bs; Piotr Talalay, dm / Leo Records CD LR 882

Three of the members of this quartet are core members of the best-known Russian free jazz group, Goat’s Notes, who have several releases on Leo Records. The fourth member of this new partnership, French saxophonist Fred Costa, joined Kudryavstev and Sandomorsky on a tour of France in 2015 and now joins them on this new CD.

The group bursts open this disc with Outta Town, a piece that starts with saxist Fred Costa grunting out some weird high notes while the rhythm section settles into a sort of modified shuffle rhythm. I was so delighted to hear a regular pulse for once that I was immediately caught up in the spirit of this piece. Development is somewhat minimal but the quartet catches a nice groove and hangs on to it; later in the piece, Costa indulges in some really strange guttural sounds, but mainly plays with a firm, rich tone, and actually stays somewhat tonal in a limited note range. This almost sounds like the kind of piece you’d hear in your local jazz club at the end of the third set, when the musicians are a little smashed and want to experiment. In the latter hald of the piece, Costa retreats to playing soft held notes with occasional slap-tongued notes while pianist Sandomirsky slows things down. One of them says something softly and incoherently for the finish.

Rush Hour Beauty, while not as regularly rhythmic as the opener, finds its own sort of pulse. Once again, one of the “vocalists” grunts out an incoherent spoken riff, probably more for effect than to be understood. This hoarse spoken vocal is interspersed with licks by Costa as the rhythm cooks behind them, increasing the pulse at 1:55 and leading into a nice drum solo by Talalay. There’s a sort of Tom Waits vibe in the grunted vocal except for the incomprehensible lyrics. Costa goes crazy with a quadruple-time series of fast phrases as the rhythm suddenly ramps up to join him. Eventually, the band finds the original rhythm as Costa returns for the ride-out.

Chasing Tail is your obligatory chaotic mad scramble to flail out as many notes as you can in all directions and see what sticks to the wall (not a lot). The bowed bass solo in the middle, though brief, establishes some stasis to the chaos before it returns. Where is the Station? opens with Sandomirsky playing the inside strings of his piano against the drums before we get another pointless, whispered, Tom Waits-type spoken vocal, of which “Where is the station?” were the only words I could make out. Who knows? Maybe this guy was stoned and really couldn’t find the station! This one does feature a nice pizzicato bass solo as well as some neat backwards-shuffle drumming behind the single-note piano part. At about 5:44 the tempo shifts to 3/4 time as we move into the finale.

Hotel Room Disasters is another free-form piece, but this one actually builds very well and goes someplace, led by the tenor sax while the bass drones down below and the drums play out-of-tempo beats behind them. The piano sits this one out. When Bars are Closing again has a regular beat in 4, an attractive minor-key melodic line, and more hoarsely grunted words by one of our “vocalists.” Although I liked much of the quartet’s music, I could have lived without the bad grunted vocal lines. They add nothing to the music and in fact detract a great deal from it. Sandomirsky, however, plays very well on this one, producing a nice coherent solo, and Costa is also very fine.

Dead Partners is a rather eerie, grim-sounding piece, but despite some background speaking it holds one’s attention and develops rather well. More gibberish, this time in a clearer, non-Tom-Waits kind of voice, in double time. Cactus begins with some hoarse whispering with no instrumental accompaniment, with the bass and a second voice coming in to add rhythmic cross-currents while the drums work away behind them. When the sax enters at 3:44, it is quite creative, playing some very interesting lines that fit into the general mood and framework of the piece. The sax becomes busier and more agitated as the piece grows in excitement, building to a furious climax before dropping out and letting the piano calm things down (with more muttering.)

We end with Farewell Cocktail, a neat little tune (yes, a real tune!) in a slow 4, with a regular beat and a nice coochy feel.

Although I liked most of the music on this set, I was less than enamored of the hoarse talking throughout. It added absolutely nothing to the overall effect of the music and in fact detracted one’s attention from the real business going on behind it.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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